Q. Crazy Cousin: My cousin "Laura" recently got involved in a verbal spat with a salesperson at a clothing store. They were both equally rude to each other. Then just as Laura exited she loudly yelled, "No wonder you're still working in retail at your age, you fat (expletive), just look at you." The salesperson ran to Laura and shoved her, and she fell to the ground. Laura immediately got up and the two women ended up in a physical fight, as I tried to tear them apart. That day, Laura posted a story on a local news/advertising website that she was assaulted, deliberately naming the store. She presented herself as a pregnant victim who was attacked for no reason, and lied and said she almost had a miscarriage. This story has stirred up a lot of heat in our small town and women are now boycotting the shop. I understand the salesperson is on disciplinary action and is likely to lose her job. While I don't sympathize with either party, I know Laura also behaved outlandishly that day. I want to write a reply to Laura's post explaining that it wasn't a one-sided attack, but a fight where both parties threw punches. But I'm scared of involving my name to what is now a very public matter as well as causing divisions in the family. Is there a way I can tell the story without identifying myself?
A: Check and see if you can post a version of events using a pseudonym. You can explain in the post that you were in the store that day and while post parties were at fault, there's another side to the story. Throw in Laura's quote and watch the sympathy for her dry up. Your cousin sounds like a troubled woman and I feel sorry for her child.
Q. Hiring Husband's Affair Partner? Four years ago my husband cheated on me with a woman who works in the same field as me. Their affair lasted eight months and ended when I discovered it. We've struggled a lot, but ultimately our marriage has survived and is even stronger. Presently, at my job, I'm in charge of hiring a new employee who would work directly under my supervision. As it turns out, my husband's affair partner is one of the more qualified applicants. I go by my maiden name at work, so I am not sure if she knows who I am. The next step in the hiring process is arranging interviews with a few candidates. I believe my husband's affair partner would be an asset for our company, but working with her on a daily basis, to say nothing of actually interviewing her, would cause me great distress. After he ended their affair, this woman emailed and called him repeatedly, begging him to reconsider. I want to remain professional, but this woman is a living embodiment of one of the most painful periods in my life. What is the right thing to do?
A: This is a great question and one that I would turn to some experts in employment law for an answer. My inclination is that despite her qualifications, you'd be her boss and you simply can't work with her, so that's the price she pays in this instance for having an affair with a married man. Do readers think the letter writer should let her boss or human resources know why she feels she should strike this candidate? Does anyone feel she should just swallow her pain and let the interview process proceed?
Q. Bestiality and Statistics: You might be interested to know that according to the landmark Kinsey Report, most farm boys' first sexual experience is with the livestock.
A: And so it perhaps is a good thing that we are no longer an agrarian society.
Q. Afraid of Baby’s Death: Three months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, she's our first child and my husband and I were in 7th heaven. But I am getting more and more afraid of my baby dying at some stage in her life, and I don't mean as an 80-year-old lady. Of course I know that there is a time for everyone to die, but I imagine my daughter having a car crash when she's a teenager, dying of cancer in her 20s, or being shot by a lunatic. All these things are extremely unlikely to happen, but I'm feeling miserable because there won't be anything I can do to prevent it. I know that I am not able to prevent her from falling down every now and then, scraping a knee, or having her heart broken when she's older. I just don't want anything to happen to her which could cut her life short. I'm so afraid of her death that I often start to cry when I look at her. My husband is worried about me: first he said it was normal to have the baby blues but it's getting worse, to a point where I can't stand to be in the same room with her because it pains me so much. Prudie, what is wrong with me? Is this what all parents go through, are parents supposed to be worried so much? Will it get better? Thanks for helping!
A: Please see your OB/GYN right away and tell him or her you are experiencing serious worry and anxiety that is interfering with your ability to be a good mother. You may have post-partum depression and getting help will make a huge difference, probably pretty quickly. What you describe is the secret burden shared by all parents, one I think most people don't even want to articulate. I don't think any of us ever completely silence that terrible voice of worry, but we learn to turn the volume down so that we can experience the full joy of being a parent.
Q. Nursing vs. Music: My daughter is in her final year of studies to become a nurse, and I currently pay for her tuition and living expenses. Last week she surprised me with the news that she won a scholarship to study at a prestigious music school overseas. Her scholarship only covers partial tuition, and she asked me to fund the remaining fees and living costs to enable her to study full time. Due to visa issues I don't think it will be possible for her to work enough hours to support herself without any help from me. While she is musically talented, I know many talented musicians who struggle to earn a living. I told her I couldn't support her in this as I thought it was an unwise investment of her time and my money. Now she's angry and is accusing me of trying to manipulate her into doing what I want. How can I get her to see some sense?
A: You can let her figure out a way to pursue a musical career without your help. If she proves you wrong, how satisfying the melody will be for her. And if you're right, she can soothe the savage breast with her medical, not musical, skills.
Q. No Recollection of Bullying: I attempted to touch base with a high school classmate on Facebook. When I sent the friend request she replied with a scathing message about how I supposedly bullied and tormented her in high school. She said I owe her an apology for making her life miserable. The trouble is, I have no recollection of bullying her. I was friends with someone who I faintly recall giving this classmate trouble, so I wonder if she associates me with recollections of being bullied. I was a typical immature drama queen teenager, but I certainly wasn't the bullying type. How can I respond to this message without making things worse? She obviously has sour memories about me.
A: You can either decide this is one of those old connections best left severed and simply not respond. Or you can reply by saying that her note rocked you because you've scoured your memory and while you know you were immature and often silly, you didn't feel any animus toward her and don't recall any cruelty. You can say if you did hurt her it was inadvertent and you're sorry. But after all that, surely you don't want to be friends with her anyway.
Q. Bestiality: I am concerned the teenage daughter might be the next object of the teenage boys’ sexual curiosities. The mother is right to want to get her daughter out of the environment.
A: Good point. The mother needs to hoof it out of there.
Q. RE: Affair and Interview: I work in human resources and I would want to know if a hiring manager would feel uncomfortable with a candidate. One consideration (and certainly not to minimize the letter writer's situation) is the potential risk of hiring someone who would engage in behavior in the workplace that could lead to harassment.
A: Thanks. Another reader writes that the wife who's doing the hiring could herself provide quite the "character reference" for the candidate!
Q. Re: Crazy Cousin: You might also try to talk to the store manager. Offer your side of the story as it might influence the manager's disciplinary actions.
A: That's a good point. No matter what the provocation, a saleswoman should not deck a customer. She herself should have gone to the manager. But the manager should know just how egregious the taunting of the employee was.
Q. Neighbors, Molestation: Our next-door neighbors are friendly and kind. However, the husband of the pair (and father of two grown and nearly grown girls) was arrested for molestation-related charges over a year ago. We had no idea but knew he moved out for nearly a year. We were curious and Googled his name and came across the court records. The charges were dropped due to "insignificance evidence" and he has returned home, friendly as ever. The charges were by a girl the age of one of their daughters but not a family member. This makes us feel odd around him, and the neighbors are openly "eluding to 'family issues' " while he was away but now we don't know how to act. Do we let them know we know? Ignore it? I think we'd feel better if he was found not guilty but since charges were dropped, we feel like there might be a "monster next door."
A: You say these are neighbors but not close friends. You have no idea if there was something to the charge or if the accusation was false. (I'm assuming you mean there was "insufficient evidence.") If you have children, it would be natural for you to be more vigilant. But without further evidence that he did it, or he's a serial abuser, this goes along with my belief that making people permanent pariahs is counterproductive. It's more natural and easier for you to stay friendly, so just continue.
Q. Parenthood: Is it normal that I don't "enjoy every moment" with my 2 1/2 year old? I love him so much, and I really do have a good time with him, but I feel like I'd rather spend short amounts of time with him, and then go do something else, and then come back to him. When I spend an entire day with him, I find it difficult to give him my full attention for longer than a little while at a time, and by afternoon I'm counting the hours until his father gets home. I usually work, so it's not often that we have a full day together, but I feel like I should be treasuring this time with him more. He's a great kid, just, you know, the usual amounts of whiny, manipulative, and needy. Just hoping I'm normal. Thanks.
A: Yes, you're normal. Back when being a housewife was the default choice for most women, this is why the cocktail hour started early. Also there are some people who love babies and toddlers and some who feel the fun really begins when their child is speaking full sentences and toilet-trained. Hang in there and in a few years you'll be surprised how much you enjoy spending a day with your son.